Prime canvas with Gesso


A canvas is usually made of linen, but can also be made of cotton. The surface has a fabric structure. She is not smooth and sucks strong. To apply color to the desired level, priming is required. In addition to fixing and smoothing a primer increases the life of the cloth.

Primer Gesso

If paint is to be applied to a canvas or photos are glued on, a primer is recommended. Since the invention of painting on canvas is primed with Gesso. Gesso consists of:

  • binder
  • chalk
  • lime
  • color pigments

In earlier times animal skin and bone glues were used as binders. Today polymers of acrylic are used for it. Gesso can have lime and chalk, only one of the two substances and / or the color pigments of very different nature and origin. Acrylgesso is also used by manufacturers of screens.

Protect tissue and image from decomposition

The preserving and stabilizing effect makes priming with Gesso not only useful for painting, but also when wallpapering and disguising the canvas. In the long term, paints, adhesives and glue attack the tissue and can lead to fraying.

The suction behavior of the canvas removes the binders from the paint. Over time, this leads to breaks and cracks in the acrylic or oil paint. Gesso prevents this effect and serves the overall color as a permanent and safe "runway".

Use Gesso as a design aid

If a canvas is already primed by the manufacturer, another coat of Gesso may thicken the primer. Possible are basic design structures that can be incorporated into the surface. They can later be used in conjunction with the paint job for attractive effects.

A basic hue extends the use and effectiveness of Gesso. Dark or black primers create the basis for negative images and motifs. As an intermediate layer Gesso can support the opaque overpainting of a canvas.

So you prime a canvas with Gesso

  • Gesso
  • paintbrush

1. Pull up the canvas

Before priming you should put the canvas on a stretcher frame and tension it evenly.

2. Mix gesso

Stir your Gesso in the way that best suits your canvas and the subject. The mixing ratio provides the desired viscosity between flowing spreadability and a paste-like modeling mass.

3. Apply Gesso

Apply the first two coats of Gesso across each other in even brushstrokes. Start in the middle and move your strokes outward. Let each coat dry for about eight hours. If you want to create relief-type jobs, start modeling from the third application layer.

4. Edit Gesso

Dried Gesso can be processed by sanding. Mica and varnish can cause gloss and reflection effects.

Tips & Tricks

You can also make Gesso yourself. Transparent Gesso consists of three parts of conventional wood glue and four parts of water. As color pigments you can mix acrylic white in two parts.

Product Image: Kate Aedon / Shutterstock


Video Board: How to Gesso a Canvas